Michael Corleone (God Father) Defines “Poise” in Leadership

The one thing that one has to admire about the character of Michael Corleone in the God Father movies is his poise.


Check out this scene outside the hospital after his father was shot by the mob, and they come again for a second attempt on his father.  He and his companion  are unarmed, yet he was able to keep his cool and outwit the assassins:


Poise is being calm and restrained in testing situations.  Staying in balance mentally and physically.  It is not an easy feat to achieve.

Look at the restraint Corleone has when he talks to his brother in law after he finds out he was the traitor behind killing Michael’s brother.  Look how staying poised helped him play the adversary and get him to confess:


Poise requires one main element, which is having no fear.  Of course poised people also do not get angry easily, but anger is another face of fear.  So, without fear, there is no anger.

Notice how Michael handles the fear tactics of Moe Green. That was a lesson in self restraint. The guy was insulting the Don subliminally, and he took it in stride focusing on his goal – total control:


Poise is the opposite of being frazzled.  All of us can be poised and all of us can be frazzled, but there are levels of both and Michael Corleone character scores the highest on the poise scale.

Notice in the scene above how Michael raised his voice but stayed in control, then cooled down and took control of the conversation. When it worked for him, he counter argued, when it was better to deflect he changed the subject to take control.

Another poised discussion comes from God Father II with the Senator from Nevada trying to “squeeze Corleone for money.”

No insults, no raised voice, just power play with utmost subtlety.

Poise requires existence of three main elements:

  • Self Confidence
  • Mental self control
  • Presence

Which of these does Michael display in this confrontation with Hyman Roth?

Notice how Michael asked the question, and then stayed silent, not responding to anything that was said.

Poise does not have anything to do with honesty, turthfulness, or copmetency.  It is a state of mind, reflected through body language, tone, and words.

Notice the older Don Corleone, when confronting Zaza about bad mouthing him, he did not care, but he wanted to send him a message. A very subtle message. Look how he did it:

Notice the long stare at the end. Subtle but clearly sends a message.

Even the most poised get off balance sometimes. So did the Michael Corleone character. It was always family that threw him off balance. Never business. There were three situations worth mentioning.The first is when his wife asked him if it is true that he killed his brother in law. Of course he came back to his poise quickly. Watch:


Then, there is when he found out his wife had a miscarriage and he wanted to know if it was a boy. This was a very interesting scene:

Finally, look at how he got frazzled as he told his brother Fredo that he found out that Fredo betrayed him and was a traitor:

As related to this last scene, for people with a Narcissitic Personality Disorder, which I think Michael is one, getting betrayed by the close circle of family and friends is something unforgivable. But we will talk about that in a coming post.
Who is your favorite poised character from the movies?

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Comments (2)

  1. Glad that you took the time out to dissect this. Poise is such an important trait to master. Michael Corleone is a phenomenal example of this and your critical analysis further proves this point.

    Ken Morris
    Instagram: @thedarkknight.007

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